Elegant

The Scheme, The Team, The Dream

Of Dust & Coal

Your brand new steam loco has arrived. You’ll be excited by the livery that you have been waiting months to see in the flesh. You may even be impressed by the detail. You are one happy bunny.

But alas dear reader, you will always be disappointed by the plastic lumps in the tender that are supposed to represent coal. It never looks right.

Your brand new steam loco has arrived. You’ll be excited by the livery that you have been waiting months to see in the flesh. You may even be impressed by the detail. You are one happy bunny.

But alas dear reader, you will always be disappointed by the plastic lumps in the tender that are supposed to represent coal. It never looks right.

Here at McKinley we demand coal that looks authentic; coal that looks like coal. So we experimented. After much tea and biscuits we decided that the best thing to use was, err, coal. Genius.

Armed with a big lump of the real stuff, several plastic bags and a hefty engineer’s hammer, we smashed the living daylights out of it. It was a most satisfying experience. What was left were several pieces of coal in a variety of sizes and, of course, lots of coal dust. It got everywhere.

The coal was graded, more bashing followed and smaller pieces emerged with, naturally, plenty more dust. Various sieves and old tea strainers were employed to further grade the lumps, but they still weren’t fine enough.

I then had a brain wave (a rare and exciting phenomenon); why not use a pepper grinder? They’re not to be sneezed at, you know. And it worked perfectly. Eureka!

Back to the loco. The first job is to get rid of the plastic blob of manufacturer’s ‘coal’, usually by carving or sanding. Occasionally a new base is made from plastic card, which is then primed with black paint.

Shape for the coal is often formed from either foam or balls of tissue paper. A coat of diluted PVA glue is applied before the graded coal is added. Add more PVA, then leave to dry for about 24 hours.

Then grab a can of hair spray to use as a medium to hold the coal in place. A card mask and quick spray, followed by a second an hour later, and there you have a coaled locomotive.

Any cheap hair spray will do; primarily its job is to be a holding lacquer with a perfect sheen for the coal and, secondly, I am worth it.